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The Last Column was the final steel beam ceremonially removed from Ground Zero, marking the formal end of the nine-month recovery effort following the 9/11 attacks.
In honor of National Volunteer Week, April 12-18, 9/11 Memorial volunteer Vernoy Paolini recalls a meaningful experience she had with a visitor on Veterans Day 2014:
On Veteran’s Day last year, we arrived early to assist with placing yellow roses in the names of all veterans on the Memorial who lost their lives on 9/11. What an honor to be a part of that recognition. In the process, we had a chance to chat with several people, including a group of British visitors, some veterans. Many of them wore red poppies for Armistice Day.
We were approached by Eric Brown, an older, misty-eyed British man and former veteran. As he watched us place yellow roses on the parapets, he quietly asked if he could have the honor of placing one of the roses in the name of a veteran on the parapets, too. At the time, all of the veterans had been recognized with a rose, but we felt that we had to make it happen for this proud and determined soldier. I removed a yellow rose from one of the names surrounding the South Tower pool and had Eric place it back into the parapet as we took his photograph.
I could see his heart swell with pride as he fought back more tears to allow his grateful smile to appear. He explained that being a veteran himself and the privilege of placing the rose on the South Tower panels made his visit all the more unforgettable. Getting to recognize an American veteran was an honor he will cherish "’til my dyin' day," he said, adding, "You know we were all grieving with you on 9/11, don't you.”
Veterans Day. Armistice Day. Remembrance Day. No matter what you call it, always make it extraordinary. Eric did that for me.
Vernoy Paolini has been a 9/11 Memorial Museum Docent volunteer since January 2014 and donates 20 hours per month.